Fewer Medicare Patients Admitted To Hospitals, According To Study

A calculator, pills and a stethoscope on top of a patient form
A new study suggests that federal government pressure has led to an increasing number of Medicare patients being held for observation instead of being admitted to hospitals, according to HealthDay.

The problem? Money…and less access to necessary care.

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According to the researchers from Brown University in Providence, RI, while admitting seniors as inpatients may reduce Medicate costs, patients held for observation are classified as outpatients and, under Medicare rules, may face higher co-payments for in-hospital services and won’t be covered for subsequent care in skilled nursing facilities.

“The dual trends of increasing hospital observation services and declining inpatient admissionssuggest that hospitals and physicians may be substituting observation services for inpatient admissions — perhaps to avoid unfavorable Medicare audits targeting hospital admissions,” the study’s first author, Zhanlian Feng, assistant professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown, said in a university news release.

Observation stays rose from less than 815,000 (2.3 per 1,000 beneficiaries) in 2007 to more than 1 million (2.9 per 1,000 beneficiaries) in 2009. Inpatient admissions fell from 23.9 per 1,000 in 2007 to 22.5 per 1,000 in 2009, the investigators noted.

In addition, the number of patients held for observation longer than 72 hours increased from less than 24,000 in 2007 to nearly 45,000 in 2009, according to the study published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs.

The practice has angered patient advocacy groups, one of which launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government last year.


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Robin Roberts Diagnosed With Rare Blood Disorder

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts announced on Good Morning America that she has been diagnosed with a rare blood and bone marrow disorder called MDS, and will undergo a bone marrow transplant. Sadly, this news happens five years after she battled breast cancer.

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Speaking on “Good Morning America” and writing on her blog post, Roberts said the disease was once called preleukemia, and is a complication from the treatment she received to beat breast cancer in 2007.

On the “GMA” website, Roberts wrote that, while there are some “scary” statistics about the disease, her doctors have told her she is young and fit enough to beat it.

READ: MDS: A Rare Disease Of The Blood

Roberts made the announcement toward the end of Monday’s “GMA,” surrounded by her co-hosts and with former co-host Diane Sawyer (whom she called “my Thelma”) in attendance.

“Sometimes treatment for cancer can lead to other serious medical issues and that’s what I’m facing right now,” she said. “The reason I am sharing this with everybody right now is because later today I begin what’s known as pre-treatment.”

Roberts said that a tube was being added to her arm Monday afternoon. “I didn’t want you to be concerned if you saw a bandage tomorrow,” she said. “It’s going to be there to draw blood … and also to administer drugs.”

She said that she will be “out for a chunk of time” after she receives a bone marrow transplant from her sister, who doctors said was a “perfect match” for her.

She pledged to overcome the disease.

“I’m going to beat this,” she said, choking up. “My doctors say it and my faith says it to me.” She received a round of applause at the end of her comments.

READ: 10 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore

In her blog post, Roberts elaborated on her diagnosis:

I received my MDS diagnosis on the very day that Good Morning America finally beat the Today Show for the first time in 16 years. Talk about your highs and lows! Then a few weeks ago, during a rather unpleasant procedure to extract bone marrow for testing, I received word that I would interview President Obama the next day. The combination of landing the biggest interview of my career and having a drill in my back reminds me that God only gives us what we can handle and that it helps to have a good sense of humor when we run smack into the absurdity of life.

Bottom line: I’ve been living with this diagnosis for awhile and will continue to anchor GMA. I love what I do and the people with whom I do it. Along with my faith, family and friends, all of you at ABC News give me the motivation and energy to face this challenge.

Watch Robin Make Her MDS Announcement:

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